What Is Khadi?

Khadi, pronounced [‘ka:di/kaa-dee], is an Indian hand-spun, hand woven fabric made from natural fibres such as cotton, silk or wool. It comes in a variety of weaves, textures and thickness-ranging from linen-like coarse khadi to highly refined muslin. It is an extremely versatile fabric and can be used for a variety of products such as clothing, bed linen and soft furnishing and costumes for the cinema and theatre.

Khadi is primarily made from cotton. Cotton balls are harvested from fields by mainly women (who account for 90% of the handpicking of cotton). Once the ball shells are removed the fibers that remain are carded into slivers ready for spinning.
Slivers are thinned out and twisted into yarn using spinning wheels. The traditional Indian ‘charkha’ (pictured above) has now been largely replaced by ring-framed multi spindle spinning wheels – many of which are solar powered. Spun yarn is then prepared for dying, often using natural dyes.  

Image Credit (clockwise from top left): HENRI, Aaron Sinift, Khamir, HENRI, HENRI.

Yarn is woven into fabric using a handloom – a simple and traditional weaving process using no electricity. The woven fabric is now ready to be stitched into a garment.

Khadi embodies the spirit of freedom, simplicity and peace. Adaptations have been the hallmark of khadi and the idea of a khadi economy; an economy guided by the concept of diverse, democratic and decentralised production systems. Systems which respect the environment and embrace principles of fairness and social justice.

We are led by the ‘Three Ds’

Decentralised

Production through a network of decentralised units within a cluster/region with maximum value addition at source.

Diverse

Promoting diversity in seeds, breeds, other raw materials and production methods, bringing together the best in local traditions and modern technology.

Democratic

Aiming to give maximum control over ownership to farmers, graziers, artisans, communities and cooperatives.

Today khadi sustains over half a million people in India, mostly rural women. An emphasis on organic and introduction of solar-powered technologies are at the forefront of transformation in the khadi sector. While it continues to be a force for change in India, the idea of a khadi economy has the potential to become a force for change globally.

The entire process of making khadi

Produces zero to low carbon footprint.

Saves 3x more energy than milling cloth.

Uses 20% less water than conventional techniques.

Image Credit: Birdsong London

Our Story

We exist to support the work of designers who value craft and provenance while challenging the unsustainable practices of fast fashion and the throwaway culture. 

Our fabric suppliers are based in different parts of India. We work closely with them to build capacity, improve standards and designs and adopt better business practices. 

Our Values Are

Individual Commitment
Build from Bottom-Up
Trust Meets Compassion
Respect For Other Views
Search For Solutions

Our Team

Ivan Nutbrown
Non-Executive Board Member

Ivan has a close connection with people in India ever since his first stay in India 50 years ago. Many of the people he got to know on that first stay were followers of Gandhi and enabled him to see Gandhi’s Constructive Programme and non-violent approach in action.

Ivan is a founder member of the UK charity, Action Village India and played a lead role in its development till his retirement. All of Action Village India’s partners in India are inspired by Gandhi and for whom khadi continues to hold a symbolic value.

Jo Salter
Non-Executive Board Member

Jo Salter is founder of award winning ethical clothing brand Where Does It Come From? and a speaker, writer and consultant on sustainable business.  She is an experienced ethical business entrepreneur and passionate about transparency and justice within product supply chains.  Jo regularly campaigns for a fairer and more eco-friendly clothing industry and supports brands to embed their values into the way they source their products.

Laurence G Sewell
Chair, Non-Executive Board

Laurence has over 45 years’ experience working for the donor community, public organisations and the private sector in Africa, Asia, Near East and Central and Eastern Europe. He has specialised in monitoring, evaluation & learning (MEL); institutional management for reforming organisations; and has a technical background in natural resource planning. He has a particular interest in the role of business in supporting pro-poor development. Laurence is a principal associate of IPE Triple Line Ltd., and a trustee for a number of charity organisations.

Kishore Shah
Co-Founder and Director

Kishore first discovered khadi fifty years ago when he went to India and volunteered with the Sarvodaya movement – a land reform movement which had evolved into a movement for village autonomy. Khadi was an integral part Sarvodaya. Kishore’s later work as an international development consultant has been guided by his experience as a Sarvodaya volunteer. He co-founded Khadi London about five years ago.

Asha Buch
Associate

Asha grew up in a family of activist supporting India’s freedom movement under the guidance of Gandhi. She learnt to spin cotton at the age of about seven or eight, a skill that she has honed over the years and enjoys passing it on. Her skills as a teacher and spinner are inspiring a small but growing number of charkha (spinning wheel) enthusiast in London. Her presence in Khadi Initiative events helps ground conversations about ethics in textiles and fashion.

Swapnaja Dalvi
Operations

Swapnaja is an Instrumentation Engineer and worked in oil & gas industry for around a decade in UK. She took a career break to India with her family to understand & work on the issue of farmer suicides. During her stay there, she was impressed by decentralised process of making cloth where the cotton is grown. She plans to return to India to practice organic farming, live a natural sustainable lifestyle and support the cause of khadi.

Elizabeth Ings
PR

Our resident event curator/manager who helped organise A Way Ahead: Ethical Khadi, then working with founding partner Jo Salter of Where Does it Come From? and friend of Khadi London, Sian Conway of Ethical Hour helped bring about the first two Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution shopping, learning and networking events and the first Be The Change Awards in 2019. Next project: Festival of Natural Fibres, November 2019.

Molshree Vaid
Business Development

Molshree is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer, working at the intersection of fashion, sustainability and technology. An alum from London College of Fashion, she has worked for CNBC, Brooks Brothers and Timberland in India in the past. At Khadi London, Molshree is involved in marketing strategy and business development.

Khadi London Blog

Information, explainers and perspectives from the world of Khadi.